There's a lot more to boxing than just stepping into a ring and throwing some punches. There are boxers who fight that way, but their careers don't last long.
The two main elements of boxing are attack and defense. Defense begins with the stance: feet shoulder-width apart, right foot slightly behind the left foot (this discussion assumes a right-handed boxer; simply reverse left with right if the boxer is a "southpaw," or left-handed). The right hand is held beside the chin, elbow down along the body. The left hand is held out a few inches in front of the face, elbow bent. This gives the boxer an opportunity to block or dodge most punches thrown at him and good base to fire punches from. It is common to see fighters holding their gloves much lower than this traditional stance. This can be done for strategic reasons (to throw their opponent off or be able to make quick body punches) or because they are getting tired or lazy.
Most boxers "bob and weave," especially early in the match. They bounce slightly and move from side to side by pushing off slightly on one foot, then the other. This offers the opponent a moving target that is harder to focus on and hit. In virtually all matches that last more than six or seven rounds, bobbing and weaving decreases tremendously late in the match as the boxers tire.
While it seems like there is an infinite variety of ways to throw a punch, a modern boxer's arsenal generally consists of four main punches:
- Jab – A straight, low-power punch with the leading (left) hand. Often used to test an opponent or "find the range" of the opponent. Enough jabs can eventually wear an opponent down.
- Hook – A powerful punch in which the fist arcs out to the side before swinging back in and connecting with the side of the body or head. Can be thrown with either hand.
- Uppercut – Almost always thrown with the right hand. The arm drops with the elbow pulled back, and the fist is thrown out and up in an arc that connects with the opponent's face. Useful for getting under an opponent's defense or when the boxers are close together.
- Cross – The right fist is thrown from the standard stance (where it is held near the chin), crossing from right to left in a straight line toward the opponent's face. The boxer shifts his weight and right shoulder forward to add power to the punch.
Any of these punches can be devastating on their own, but they are most effective in combinations. A combination is any series of two or more punches in quick succession. For example, the jab-cross combo is very common.
In the next section, we'll look at some different fighting styles.